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Row continues over sale of Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club site in Norton
A DECISION to sell off the site of the building housing Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club in Norton has prompted a backlash.
The decision taken in September by members of Ryedale District Council has prompted a flurry of questions challenging the move at tomorrow’s meeting of the full council at Ryedale House.
Up to 21 questions have been submitted for the council on this one issue.
Coun John Clark, leader of the Liberal group, told the Gazette & Herald he had never seen so many questions on one particular issue during his nine years on the council.
He said: “There is a whole string of questions as to whether it was the right decision to sell the club. Many feel the decision to sell it has been taken in a rush.
“They are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs just because the eggs are smaller.”
Others argue that it flies in the face of campaigns to promote healthier pursuits – especially when the UK has been hosting this year’s Olympics – and it will deprive older people in particular the chance to meet others for social activities.
The decision to sell the site followed a report by the council’s corporate director Paul Cresswell which pointed out that the club’s survival had only been secured by the council halving its rent to £10,000 this year.
He argued that the club was effectively receiving a public subsidy of almost £30,000 a year because of the difference between what it pays and the “market rent” for the building and this could not continue.
However, selling the site could raise about £400,000 but would leave the club’s survival in doubt.
Coun Clark argued that with current interest rates that sum would provide the council with just a few thousand pounds a year compared with the £10,000 it currently received from the club.
He said: “The sale would bin the health agenda, bin the sports agenda and bin the social inclusion agenda. Surely it would also be better to get the rent rather than a lower rate from the interest.”
A similar argument has been put by Coun Paul Andrews who states that if the interest on the capital is less than the present rent “what would be the benefit to the council taxpayers of Ryedale?”
But Coun Linda Cowling, chairman of the council’s Commissioning Board, said: “All the questions are being asked by the non-Conservative members of the council. Why didn’t they speak up when the matter was decided at the September meeting.”
She argued the council was effectively subsiding the club by nearly £30,000 a year when it had just 156 members and the café was also being subsidised.
Coun Cowling added: “I would rather cut spending on the bowls centre than on our swimming pools which are so well used by people of all ages, especially children.”
Coun Lindsay Burr felt there had been inadequate consultation with the public over the issue.
She added: “I don’t think the Conservative group appreciates the value of the centre to our community because it is used as venue not just for bowls but for many events such as wedding and christening receptions, business meetings, children’s parties and fund raising.
“It has economic benefits for Norton but this plan has moved so quickly and not been thought through.”
Other questions demand answers as to how much has been spent by the council on the club building.
Tom Nairn, the club’s chairman, said the decision to put the site on the market was very “sad and disappointing” for the local community.
The committee which runs Ryedale Indoor Bowls Club has been trying to attract other sports to make it a multi-sport facility for the community, as well as encouraging other uses, from training workshops to blood donor sessions.
“A lot of people have grafted very hard over many years to sustain the club and it will be the older members who will feel the loss the most,” said Mr Nairn.